What we do
We are a consultancy business, working in the mining sector. Our clients comprise mining and mining-service companies.
Our consultancy work for clients ranges from providing strategic advice, to analysis of market trends and assistance with specific market opportunities. We follow closely mining developments both in Australia and overseas.
For mining-service companies, we also offer specific information programs.
For example, between March and June 2018, we are building-up a package of reports on 50 key Australian mining projects overseas. These are projects driven from Australia, involving an Australian mining company and (in most cases) an Australian engineering consultant.
Our reports open up a world beyond Australia that is accessible to Australian mining-service companies and offers attractive expansion opportunities to them.
In addition, our mining database lists all operating mines in Australia and gives details of the key people involved in them (e.g. mining managers, processing managers, maintenance superintendents, procurement personnel).
For further information on our services, please contact us at email@example.com, or 0411 478307 (national) or +61 411 478307 (international).
Source: Stephen Codrington
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GRAPHITE: CHINESE DOMINANCE
18 April 2018
Like coal, graphite is a form of carbon. It has a long history.
As early as the fourth century BC, it was a component of paint used for pottery.
In the 1500s, the English discovered that, in the manufacture of cannon balls, the lining of moulds with graphite resulted in rounder, smoother balls, thus extending their firing range. For this reason, graphite was highly prized by the English navy.
At that time, graphite production was based on a large deposit in Cumbria in northwest England. Subsequently, the British Empire dominated production, particularly from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
As from the 1800s, graphite became increasingly used as a refractory material, particularly in the iron-and-steel, glass and ceramics industries. (A refractory material is a material that retains its strength and form at high temperatures.)
Also from this time, graphite’s use in pencils helped the spread of mass education. And other graphite applications emerged, for example, in brake linings and as a lubricant.
In the last 30 years, graphite has been increasingly used in batteries, particularly lithium-ion batteries, which are critical components of electric vehicles and digital devices.
A battery cell typically consists of an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte.
When the battery becomes part of a circuit containing, say, a light bulb, positively-charged particles (“ions”) flow through the electrolyte, causing negatively-charged electrons to flow through the circuit, thus powering the light bulb.
In a lithium-ion battery, the anode typically consists of graphite and the cathode of lithium and/or other elements (e.g. nickel, cobalt, manganese); the electrolyte includes lithium ions.
The graphite in a lithium-ion battery typically comprises both natural graphite (which is mined) and synthetic graphite (made typically from petroleum coke).
The natural graphite must be in flake form (one of several graphite forms). The flakes must then be shaped into small spheres, purified and coated, to produce what is known as spherical graphite.
Wherein lies China’s dominance? China produces 65% of the world’s natural graphite and over 90% of the world’s spherical graphite.
Both the United States and European Union regard this dominance with concern, seeing graphite as a strategically-important mineral.
Will China’s dominance continue?
In the past few years, southern Africa – notably Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar and Namibia – has emerged as a potentially-important source of natural graphite. Australian mining companies are particularly active there.
Exploration is stepping-up strongly in Canada, which looks likely to increase its production share in coming years (it is currently about 3%). Brazil (already a producer) and Turkey (an insignificant producer) also have significant resources, although this only applies to Brazil in the case of flake graphite.
India is the world’s second-largest natural-graphite producer, but has only limited remaining resources. The Australian company, Talga Resources, is developing a major resource in Sweden.
As with natural graphite, so with spherical graphite: other countries (including the United States) are moving into the production of this material.
Overall, China’s overall dominance of the world’s graphite sector is likely to decline. But China will continue to be the main player for some time.
The extent of its dominance will partly depend on prices. In recent years, prices for flake graphite have not increased as strongly as those for lithium and cobalt, notwithstanding that all three are important for lithium-ion batteries. The reason appears to be that batteries still only account for a small proportion (about 10%) of the total natural-graphite market.
However, with this proportion expected to increase, natural-graphite prices are expected to increase strongly also.
This will encourage others to move into the field.
Some participants in the market speak of the outlook for the lithium-ion battery market as being assured. But given the ongoing research into other battery types, this should not be taken for granted.
As noted in an article on batteries in the June 2017 issue of the Australian government’s Resources and Energy Quarterly, “technological change is a wildcard and a potential game-changer”.